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    US oil giants report huge profits in tight energy market

    NEW YORK (AFP) – A day after blockbuster profits from European oil heavyweights, United States (US) oil giants ExxonMobil and Chevron reported another round of bumper earnings, prompting fresh attention from the White House.

    ExxonMobil scored a near tripling of third-quarter profits to USD19.7 billion, a company record, while Chevron profits surged 84 per cent to USD11.2 billion.

    The eye-popping reports drew a new snipe from US President Joe Biden and came on the heels of hefty profits reported earlier this week by TotalEnergies and Shell that have reignited a European debate on windfall profits taxes.

    The results show how the surge in crude prices in the aftermath of the invasion of Ukraine has boosted the industry by lifting crude prices, as well as natural gas prices due to Europe’s mobilisation to offset lost natural gas imports.

    Another factor has been elevated refining margins, partly due to operational woes at some plants, as well as the shuttering of some refineries during the pandemic and repurposing of plants for renewable fuel.

    The strong refining margins have translated into higher gasoline prices, a major point of focus in the midterm US elections roiled by rising inflation.

    An Exxon gas station in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania. PHOTO: AP

    Prices at the pump stand at a national average of USD3.76 per gallon, up about 11 per cent from the year-ago level.

    Prices topped USD5 in June, hitting an all-time high.

    Biden, who has alternated between slamming oil giants and prodding them to boost output, mocked a comment from ExxonMobil Chief Executive Daren Woods, who defended returning extra cash to shareholders.

    Woods, responding to criticism that the industry should return profits to the American people, said, “That’s exactly what we’re doing in the form of our quarterly dividend.” Biden rejected that argument.

    “Can’t believe I have to say this but giving profits to shareholders is not the same as bringing prices down for American families,” Biden tweeted.

    Officials from ExxonMobil and Chevron have met with the Biden administration, but the companies have maintained their spending policies, boosting production in the US Permian Basin and some other venues incrementally, but not opening the spigots towards massive new projects.

    The companies have continued to return cash to shareholders.

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